One of the benefits of print is that it allowed for a mass distribution of written material and a general increase in access to information. Previously books and other written materials were limited to those who could afford them and most were religious materials. These books and things were limited because they were handwritten and had to be painstakingly and meticulously copied. This process could take months to years for a single book! However print allowed for identical copies of a book or other written material to be produced relatively quickly and thus print could reach a wider audience.
The increase in the distribution of printed materials, in particular to the average person, is evidenced by the collection of pamphlets bound together in the codex entitled Baltimore Ballads. This collection holds pamphlets that range from 1821-1826. The pamphlets are poems, songs, or even stories, many of which describe a historic event. From their quality it is clear that they were every day material distributed to the general population. They were not bound in any way until they were collected and bound together. Instead they were originally just a few sheets of paper folded together. The paper itself was thin and flimsy. Some of the paper’s brittleness may be a result of age but it is still clear that the paper is cheaply made. The print also was not as fine as the print in some of the nicer printed materials and often faded away as though the press did not even distribute pressure to the page.
Pictured below are a couple of pages from the collection. On the left there is some fading of the text and on the right the edge of the page is brittle and broken. The color difference between the two pages show that the come from two different publications and in this example the publications are even printed on two distinct types of paper; one is printed on wood pulp paper and the other on cloth.
Baltimore Ballads. From the Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University, Photographed by Ania Chandler.
Some interesting links about type setting terminology and the history of print: